The Use of Food in Dog Training

Discussion in 'Dog Training: Principle and Practice' started by editor, Feb 12, 2016.

  1. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    14,807
    Location:
    Andorra and Spain
    I've heard it said several times that dogs should work for you because they want to please you. I know that my boy, Shadow, certainly falls more into the "wanting to please me" category than Willow. However, I think I can attribute his willingness to the fact that he actually enjoys the process of learning, so finds that inherently rewarding. Of course, he still gets loads of lovely treats, and I'm not kidding myself that we could do any sort of proofing without treats, but he certainly sparkles when he gets the click or the "good" when he's working out a behaviour. That's just part of his goofy nature, though, and you couldn't expect all dogs to be the same. Willow certainly isn't.

    I've been witness to the other side of the coin this morning. On our early walk, we were about halfway round our loop, when the pisters started avalanche blasting on the mountain. Willow was scared and stuck to me like glue. It was super slippy out and, since she wouldn't leave my side of her own volition, I had to ask her to sit and stay whilst I was walking (sliding) down a slippery bank, for fear I'd fall on her. She behaved impeccably and then came directly back to my side when released. Instead of finding this gratifying, it was upsetting to me because, even though it's good that she trusts me, I could see how her behaviour was being motivated by her fear rather than reinforcement. Of course, I still offered her treats (which she took when offered close to her, but she wouldn't chase for), but she wasn't really interested in them. As we got closer to home, she started to trot a little bit ahead, but would then suddenly stop, look around and then come back to me. Again, you could tell this was motivated by fear; she didn't want to stray too far from me for fear something bad would happen (the boom). Not that I had any hesitations anyway, but seeing this behaviour influenced by aversives, however unintentional, made me reaffirm my decision that +R is the right path for me and my dogs.
     
    drjs@5 likes this.
  2. Emily

    Emily Supporting Member Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    2,783
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Hmm... I'm just thinking of my issues with Ella's drop and drop stay. I've mentioned before that Ella is good a drop/drop stay in every location I've tried, other than on the grounds of our dog club (both at training and when no one is there).

    Do you think it would be appropriate to try treat streaming when at the club grounds even though she seems to do both exercises well in other locations?
     
    editor likes this.
  3. editor

    editor Administrator

    Joined:
    May 10, 2011
    Messages:
    6,413
    Increasing the frequency of reinforcement and reducing the duration of tasks is an important part of training in new locations. You might find this article helpful Emily
     
    Emily likes this.
  4. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    Ha, yes. I wasn't reluctant to use food in training but the first time I went on a 'proper' clicker training course (rather than just the local pet training class, where I didn't learn much) the very first thing I learned was to deliver treats at a high rate of reinforcement - I couldn't believe how fast. I ran out of treats mid morning!

    The next day, I prepared the number of treats I thought I would need for the day's training - then tripled it!
     
    snowbunny and editor like this.
  5. Emily

    Emily Supporting Member Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    2,783
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    That's great, thank you :)

    It pleases me even more that my favourite trainer was suggesting a technique very similar to the push/drop/stick technique you mention in the article. She suggested that I try for a 5 second drop stay (basically long enough to leave, pause in front and return back to her) then, once we are consistently successful, increase to 10 seconds etc. I think I'll work on this but incorporate some much higher value treats and see how we go :)
     
  6. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    Have you tried a placeboard, @Emily ? Placeboards really helped Charlie make the transition between garden and the outside world. He was so heavily reinforced for keeping his bum on that placeboard in the garden, that it really helped him in a new location. Being able to take the placeboard was like being able to take part of the cue from the garden....

    When he came back off rest last summer, I took him to pet dog classes and for the first few minutes, he couldn't remember his 'wait' cue (I was a bit embarrassed to be honest!) so I got a placeboard out of the car, and used that for a bit and by the end of the class he was back to his normal self and I could walk away from him the length of the field.
     
    editor likes this.
  7. Emily

    Emily Supporting Member Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    2,783
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    Ooh, no I haven't Julie. I've seen one of your videos but it didn't even cross my mind!

    So many possibilities... I'm getting a little excited to get training in the morning :D:D
     
  8. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    I really love placeboards - so does Charlie. It's not quite 'right' because he should be still, but I love the way Charlie sits on a placeboard and wags his tail off the back of it. He loves them. They were the first thing that I trained without making a mistake or saying ah-ah or no (I used to do that, unfortunately) - just with a clicker and food, and you can tell by the way he lights up when the placeboards come out....:)
     
    Emily likes this.
  9. MaccieD

    MaccieD Guest

    Remember to only try one at a time though otherwise Ella may become a little confused. I rather like the push, drop, stick approach (I'm waiting for the book at the moment - hurry up Amazon!!) as it's pretty much what I've always practiced with Juno, increase time and then distance.
     
    Emily likes this.
  10. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 25, 2011
    Messages:
    6,029
    @JulieT What is Charlie like if you sit him on a place board and throw a dummy, does he run in then? Not asking you to take placeboards out, but it could be a start of self control, in your garden. Sorry off topic for a moment.

    I went to excellent puppy classes run by an APTD trainer. No puppies rushing around, we did things individually.
     
  11. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    You can use push, drop, stick on a placeboard - the placeboard just makes it easier on the dog. Indeed you definitely must use whatever version of push, drop, stick you choose on a placeboard. It doesn't remove the need to do that.

    He is steady in the garden, mainly achieved using my placeboards, and I will use a placeboard at training for all sorts of distractions. Placeboards will overcome an awful lot with Charlie - but not a moving dummy. They do help, a lot, where they are practical.

    I did a very interesting exercise at training with Charlie. We were measuring the level of arousal and what cues Charlie could or couldn't follow with different distractions. Introduce the placeboards and his ability to follow his cues went up dramatically. The placeboards simply gave him a massive hint of what was required of him.

    Mind, I put hundreds of hours into my placeboards, really, hundreds.
     
    Emily likes this.
  12. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 25, 2011
    Messages:
    6,029
    You are a very committed trainer, I do admire all the hours you put in, I hope that one day Charlie will be steady! It will happen if you wait long enough:) I think it took my 'naughty' Lab until he was four or five. My younger Lab has a different nature and was much easier to steady, though he will still run in if we are playing.
     
  13. MaccieD

    MaccieD Guest

    Sorry, I may be being a bit thick this afternoon (reading too much dominance theory in dogs and societies) but I can't see why you must use a placeboard to use a version of push/drop/stick. I've never used a placeboard with Juno and have gradually increased either time or distance in versions of stay (either in sit or down). If I fail on a repetition we just move back a step whether in the garden or out on a walk
     
  14. charlie

    charlie Registered Users

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2012
    Messages:
    11,363
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    Thanks Pippa I appreciate it. I don't always do things exactly the way everyone else might but I do wonder if so long as it works then it doesn't matter :) x

    Now I really am confused :confused:. I have watched videos of people posting treats in their dogs mouths, yours included. What exactly is bad about it Julie :confused: Thanks x
     
  15. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    I mean shoving treats in the dog's mouth in a way that they wouldn't really have a choice not to take it if they didn't want. Is your next question going to be why that's a bad thing to do? Or is that obvious....:D:D:D
     
  16. charlie

    charlie Registered Users

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2012
    Messages:
    11,363
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    :D:D I get it, I just like to make sure! ;)
     
  17. Rosamund

    Rosamund Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Glasgow
    Hi

    I had a first training session with a new trainer today. He was really good with Vespa and I enjoyed the session. However, he refuses to use food even though he only uses positive methods-as you describe above-he praises and pets etc but won't use food. I tentatively tried to broach the subject and explain I had always used food but he kept saying 'you don't need it' etc. Argh. I really want to go to a class but can't find anyone who uses food. Can I go to him and use food in practice when he's not there and just not tell him or is that stupid and will it confuse Vespa? He's already recommending I go to his colleague for the advanced class but he's apparently even more old fashioned so maybe it's a non-starter. Bit depressed as was so excited by finding somewhere to go and Vespa was excellent-but is it pointless? You suggest that in the long run it simply doesn't work to not use food with positive reward training especially with proofing. Have I understood that correctly?
    Thanks as always for all your wisdom. :)
     
  18. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    Not many people would believe this. If someone is not using food, then they are using aversives - or have used aversives. I think it's really common to meet people who say they don't need to use food but the dog has learned foundation behaviours through aversives. So, for example, the dog doesn't move off a sit-stay because he has previously been punished for doing so, and now the trainer doesn't need to use food because the dog is kept there through a desire to avoid the displeasure of the trainer and small body language movements of the trainer (which the trainer claims are not punishments) are enough to keep the dog sitting. It appears that the dog doesn't need a reward, but because it's intimidated by the trainer, it is still actually being trained by aversives.

    If you are comfortable with the trainer, and you yourself are aware of how to avoid aversives, and you are learning....well, can't you go and see how you get on? It's up to you what you do with your dog, and most of your training is not in class anyway. Class is where you learn, and you mostly train your dog outside class.
     
  19. Dexter

    Dexter Moderator Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2013
    Messages:
    11,378
    Location:
    Dubai
    Ah Rosamund....I know how you feel I went to Dubai's version of Good Citizen Bronze classes and the trainer used aversives despite their advertising...There is so little choice for me where I live so I really try to make things work when I sign up for them.I said quite honestly to him,I'll have to leave if you won't let me use food ,it was only a small class so we were able to come to an agreement ....Is it a conversation you could have with the Trainer ? I must admit I did feel under scrutiny though.....it wasn't the most comfortable of learning environments for me...But Julie is so right when she says Class is where you learn and away from class is where you do your training,that has totally been my training experience
     
  20. MaccieD

    MaccieD Guest

    It is completely possible to train a dog without food and without using aversives, bearing in mind that something is only aversive if the dog decides it is aversive. Some dogs aren't food orientated so not interested in working for food. It is possible to train without food in just the same way as you are able to train without a clicker. It sounds as if you need a conversation with the trainer to go forward with classes. The use of food is your choice, not the trainer.
     

Share This Page